Two For One
by Lawrence Ferber
Sophomore albums either suck, transcend or exist on the same level as their predecessors. Yet always they signal some sort of change within the band or individual that crafted them. In the case of young Canadian twins Tegan and Sara, changes have indeed come about with sophomore LP release "If It Was You" on Vapor Records.
First and foremost?
"Apparently we're getting cuter," Sara professes. "We met up with all these people haven't seen in a long time from the industry last night and everyone said we're sexy. I'm all over it! Maybe our groupies will get cuter, too!"
Truth be told, this is actually their third album. Their first, 1998's "Under Feet Like Ours," was self-released. And appearances aside, the identical, openly lesbian twins have crafted an unquestionably more mature, fully-realized album this time around, capitalizing upon their tasty brand of poppy-whilst-rockin' tune-smithing with deeper lyrics and arrangements.
"Each year you grow a little bit, develop a bit more, your efficiency and playing your instrument gets better," Sara opines. "Your grasp on what it is to really write a song. I think this album is definitely a progressive step for us. It sounds different, bigger. And it was the first record we made that we didn't cry during."
That distinction didn't apply to post-recording, however. At least for Tegan.
"I am less of an emotional disaster than I used to be and I feel Tegan has picked up the slack now," Sara admits. "Tegan can be very hysterical. We just came up to Toronto to do a couple of shows and the night we arrived, Tegan and I were sort of bitching back and forth at each other. I went to the shower and thought 'whatever, it's not such a big deal,' and when I got out she was hysterically sobbing on the floor."
Born in Calgary, Canada, September 19th, 1980 (Tegan is 8 minutes senior), the twins got hooked on music at 15. Mom's boyfriend left his guitar where Sara could get to it.
Later, they found themselves on a magazine cover, touring with the likes of Kinnie Starr and Paula Cole, and before you know it, landing a four record deal with Vapor Records, a division of Warner Brothers. Their first proper album, 2000's "This Business of Art," won critical kudos and an opening slot on tour with Neil Young and The Pretenders. They've also performed at Lilith Fair and shared bills with Rufus Wainwright.
A highlight from the tour was playing basketball with The Pretenders' frontswoman Chrissie Hynde — and beating her.
"She was a little feisty about that," Sara notes. "I didn't write it down but I swear to God one night she called us 'little shits.' She was super-cool."
When it came time to record "If It Was You," the Vancouver-based sisters felt a few sophomore jitters.
"I think it's more relevant when you've actually sold a lot of records," Sara opines. "If you sell 10 million and then have to do it again it's pretty terrifying. But we have a good following in Canada and a small one in the states. We're going to do what we want and either take the fan base and build on it or not, which there's nothing we can do about."
The sisters both scribe songs, and say little blood is shed when deciding which ones make it to the recording studio. Tegan is the more prolific tunesmith apparently, reeling off a bevy of songs regularly. Sara, meanwhile, "writes five songs a year," says Tegan, "but they're the five that automatically get on the record, without question."
"I always secretly wondered if I could be a [book] writer," Sara admits.
On the topic of girlfriends, both Tegan and Sara have one (not the same one, mind you). Sara has known hers since high school, and the pair have been together four years so far. She admits that she is more a fan of Sara the person than Sara the recording artist.
"My girlfriend doesn't like our music, really," Sara smiles. "That's why I like her. She likes more electronic music and hip-hop - Bjork and Janet Jackson."
Of course, while they're both partnered, that newfound "sexy" status will surely affect their gigs as well — and could lead to some future songs. Not about not cheating on their girlfriends, though, but sibling rivalry.
"This guy came up to us at our show the night before last," Sara recalls, "and told Tegan that if she was looking for someone to marry, he's waiting and willing. Apparently she said no and then he came and asked me! That annoys me! I thought it was so cute [when he asked me] so I was flirting and enjoyed the attention. And then later I found out he asked Tegan first and I was like 'that's not fucking fair.'"